Most of us are no strangers to stressful days. You might have woken up bleary-eyed after only getting a few precious hours of sleep and got into an argument with your loved one, or maybe you fought traffic on the way to work and came in to find out that your coworker unexpectedly quit and that you’re now being saddled with their workload.
On those super stressful days when Murphy’s Law comes into play, it can be tempting to come home from work, plop yourself down on the couch and scroll through social media until it’s time for bed. However, research suggests that there are much better ways to decompress after a long day.
The next time you’re feeling stressed, try these seven tricks for managing your stress and decompressing after a long day.
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Disconnect From Work
If possible, stop responding to work calls and emails after regular hours. Continuing to communicate with your colleagues after work hours will only add to your stress and prevent your brain from decompressing in preparation for the next day. To avoid inadvertently checking your work email, delete work apps (Slack, email, etc.) from your phone. If that’s not feasible, set boundaries for yourself by turning off push notifications.
While you’re at it, turn off push notifications for social media. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram may sound relaxing, but evidence suggests that “liking” or viewing other people’s photos on social media doesn’t do anything for our well-being and may even increase feelings of anxiety.
Wind Down with a Weighted Blanket
Whether you’re using it to maximize your sleep or recover from a mentally and physically demanding job, wrapping yourself in a weighted throw blanket is an excellent way to relieve tension after a stressful day. Everyday stressors like workplace stress and family stress can build up and lead to elevated cortisol levels, which in turn can cause anxiety, insomnia and other complications. Weighted blankets help break this cycle by providing soothing pressure to the body, triggering the release of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin) that combat stress and anxiety.
Weighted blankets aren’t the only weighted products that can help ease you out of your workday, by the way. If you’re always traveling for work, consider packing a weighted eye mask in your carry-on and using it to de-stress in your hotel room after a long day.
Cook an Easy Meal from Scratch
After a long day at the office, whipping up a home-cooked meal from scratch may be the last thing you feel like doing. But hear us out on this one: cooking is a surprisingly effective stress-reliever.
Getting busy in the kitchen often means stepping away from digital devices and focusing on the task at hand. In other words, cooking forces you to stay in the present moment. That’s why cooking is especially beneficial if you’re ruminating over a mistake you made at work or stressing about the future.
Of course, some people find cooking to be a stressful activity. If you’re one such person, consider keeping your recipes super simple. Let go of the pressure and just have fun with it!
Read a Book
Picking up a good book does more than just improve your vocabulary. It’s also scientifically proven to reduce stress. In a 2009 study published in the Journal of College Teaching & Learning, researchers measured the effects of reading, yoga and humor. The study found that reading for 30 minutes lowered blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological stress in participants just as effectively as humor or yoga did.
If reading an entire novel sounds like a daunting prospect, opt for a short story instead. From heart-pounding classics like The Cask of Amontillado to contemporary tales such as Alice Munro’s Dear Life, there are plenty of engrossing short stories waiting for you to discover.
Take a Warm Soak in Epsom Salt Water
Bathing is a relaxing activity all on its own, but if you want to make your daily ablutions even more Zen, consider taking an Epsom salt bath. Found naturally in hot springs, Epsom salts have long been used to ease aches, pains and skin conditions. They’re especially useful for easing tension in the shoulders, neck and head.
Taking an Epsom salt bath is easy:
- Plug the drain and fill the tub up with warm water.
- Pour two cups of Epsom salt into the running water (this helps it dissolve).
- Soak for about 20 minutes.
If you want to make your bath experience even more relaxing, step into a weighted robe after you get out of the tub and treat yourself to some calming lavender lotion. (We’re relaxed just thinking about it.)
Schedule Worry Time
Setting aside time to worry may sound like the opposite of relaxing. But as it turns out, this therapist-approved technique can go a long way in helping to lower your stress. When we allow our worries to run rampant all day, they can increase our anxiety and make it harder to cope with everyday stressors and challenges. By scheduling “worry time,” you’re allowing yourself to take a deep dive into worries for a short length of time and potentially address genuine problems.
Stretch or Do Yoga
Exercise is a tried-and-true tool for decreasing stress and getting yourself back to a happier state of mind. But on stressful days where you already feel like you’re being stretched too thin, the idea of doing a hard workout can sound less than appealing. Instead of doing nothing and inevitably feeling guilty, try doing a light stretching routine or yoga. Not only do these activities increase your flexibility and mobility, but they also induce feelings of calmness and release endorphins that make you feel good. Best of all, you don’t need expensive equipment to get started and can do it anywhere at any time.
Stressful days are a fact of modern-day living, but that doesn’t mean you should sit back and allow stress to go unchecked. With these simple wind-down strategies, you can relax your body and get back to a Zen-like state.